Katy Perry performing at her Prismatic World Tour in Chile Oct. 2015. Photo by Antonio Munoz/Wikimedia Commons

Convent sale controversy ends in favour of LA archdiocese, Katy Perry

By  Catholic News Agency
  • December 7, 2017
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – This week, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and singer Katy Perry were awarded a joint $10 million sum for punitive damages over a church-owned hilltop property which was illegally sold to a developer in 2015 after the archdiocese had accepted an initial offer from Perry. 
The property, a former convent belonging to the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters, is a church-owned estate under the care of Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. The archdiocese also has a current lease on one of the buildings on the property, which is used as a priests’ house of prayer. This lease has an additional 77 years left.

“I would like to reiterate my continued commitment to all of the Immaculate Heart sisters that the archdiocese will take care of them and ensure their well-being now and in the future,” said Archbishop Gomez when the controversy began in 2015.

The Immaculte Heart of Mary sisters was founded after a group of prgressive nuns reached an impasse with the Catholic Church in the late 1960s and asked to be released from their vows. Anita Caspary and the LA order she led were cast as "rebel nuns" for reforming the traditions of consecrated life, like abandoning the nun's habit and taking personal control of prayer schedules. As of 2010, it remained the largest Catholic order in the U.S. to sever ties with the Vatican, according to the 2010 edition of "Unveiled: The Hidden Lives of Nuns." 

Two of the nuns who previously lived on the property, Sister Rita Callanan and Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, made the invalid transaction with Dana Hollister, a restaurateur and developer who had plans to turn the property into a boutique hotel.

However, Hollister’s offer came after an initial $14.5 million offer from singer Katy Perry, which the archdiocese had accepted. Their deal additionally protected the house of prayer on the property, which was to be owned by the sisters.

After the sale to Hollister, of which the sisters received $44,000 and were promised an additional $9.9 million after three years, Hollister took possession of the property.

The archdiocese officially took action against the transaction June 19, 2015 with the claim that the sisters were not authorized to act as sellers of the property, since it is under the care of Archbishop Gomez. Additionally, any church sale of more than $7.5 million would require approval from the Vatican.

A jury found Hollister guilty last month of intentionally interfering with Perry’s first offer.

On Monday, the court sided with the local Church and with Perry, ordering Hollister to pay $3.47 million to the archdiocese and an additional $1.57 million to Perry for legal fees. Hollister was also charged with paying $10 million in punitive damages, which will be split between Archbishop Gomez and Perry.

Hollister has around $4 million in assets and will not be able to pay the fees in full, although her lawyer Michael Geibelson said Hollister could appeal the ruling.

Perry intends to move forward with the initial agreement of sale with the archdiocese.

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